State Court System Suspends All Nonessential In-Person Appearances

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

Due to the recent coronavirus resurgence statewide, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore announced today that all nonessential in-person appearances are being temporarily suspended and only a small number of in-person essential and emergency matters will be heard in criminal, family, and housing court. 

Additionally, in-person staffing levels are being reduced to 40% or less in the courts outside New York City and to 30% or less in the courts within the City. DiFiore said the measures will dramatically reduce the number of people coming into their courthouses, thereby curtailing the person-to-person contact that enables the virus to spread.

“Our administrative judges and court managers are implementing these steps within a statewide framework and an established set of protocols that enable us to have a consistent overall response to the impact of the resurgence on court operations,” said DiFiore. “Baked into the protocols is sufficient discretion for each of our administrative judges to make operational decisions that are tailored to the specific needs of their courts and the public health conditions demanding action in their localities.” 

DiFiore said the court system was encouraging virtual appearances whenever possible and would continue focusing on improving and expanding its virtual capacity, especially in the Family Court, where jurists and staff are already handling hundreds of matters remotely each day, including urgent filings involving child abuse and neglect, delinquency, support, custody, visitation and guardianship cases.

She noted that the court system has distributed hundreds of laptops and other remote technology statewide, and is upgrading and improving the virtual court process by, for example, installing voice recognition software to streamline the efficiency and improve the accuracy of virtual proceedings.

Access to Justice

DiFiore also announced a new access to justice initiative today between the court system’s Office for Justice Initiatives led by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina Mendelson, the state bar’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, pro bono attorneys at the law firm of Davis, Polk & Wardwell, and Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT).

She said the partnership will provide remote legal assistance to the growing number of unrepresented New Yorkers who are filing child support petitions in the wake of the pandemic. The initiative is expected to launch by the end of next month and expands on LIFT’s existing web-based “Family Legal Connection” platform. This links unrepresented litigants with supervised pro bono attorneys who provide limited scope advice and information to litigants and assist litigants in drafting child support petitions.

LIFT is now recruiting volunteer attorneys from all across the state in order to expand the program in the New York City Family Court, and to many of their Family Courts in the Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Judicial Districts.

COVID-19 Webinars

Tuesday, Dec. 8 – Drafting Key Life-Planning Documents During COVID-19.

Wednesday, Dec. 9 – Top Remote Technology Tools To Streamline Your Law Practice.

Thursday, Dec. 10 – Bankruptcy and Virtual Lawyering: A Court Technology Update for Remote Appearances.

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